Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Dare You To

Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Release: May 28, 2013

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

Last year, I read Pushing the Limits without any expectations. I also read it at a time in which I wasn't that into contemporaries. Pushing the limits rekindled my love for that genre, and Dare You To is the impressive follow up. It's a companion novel, so it's a full story all on it's own, but you do get to see a few familiar faces: Isaiah, Echo, and Noah. This book follows Beth's story as she's moves in with her uncle to start a new life. Beth is pissed, and wants nothing more than to go back and save her mother from the dangerous cycle of drugs, addiction, and abuse. She has no time to think about Ryan, the baseball player who seems to have a thing for her. 

With Ryan, it started off as a simple bet with his friends in a taco bell: to get her phone number. When Beth brushes him off, he's insulted...and intrigued. But Ryan's life is not quite as perfect as everyone would think. His father is a massive tight-wad, convinced his son will eventually play pro. Ryan also feels the loss of his estranged brother (estranged for reasons that are better left unsaid in this review). On top of that, he discovers his talent for writing, and is conflicted about his desires to play ball and to go to college after graduation. 

What I love about Katie McGarry's books is her ability to tug at your heart strings. She doesn't just write about love. She writes about life. These characters are all flawed, but they feel real. And I can't help but find myself crying, and laughing, with them as I read about their journey. The third (and final) companion novel can't come soon enough. I will read anything Katie McGarry writes. 


Monday, June 17, 2013

Review School Spirits

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins
Release: May 14, 2013

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt? 

School Spirits is first book in a spin off series to Rachel Hawkin's Hex Hall trilogy. It follows the story of Izy Brannik, the redheaded girl we meet in Demonglass. I'm not sure how much time has passed since the events of Spell Bound, but I want to say a year or two. Izzy is now dealing with her sister's disappearance, all while fighting beings of the supernatural kind. Her mother gives her an assignment at a (regular) school, where there's been some ghost hauntings supposedly. Izzy thinks it's an assignment beneath her, but pretty soon, she makes friends and actually starts to learn more about the 'modern world'. She's sort of been isolated from it her entire life.

Overall, School Spirits a very easy book to read: fun and fast paced. I also really liked DEX, Izzy, Anderson, and Romy. They're a fun cast of characters that I hope to read more about. Still, I can't help but miss the original gang, especially Sophie. Still, I definitely recommend this book. The typical Hawkins snark is still ever present, and it never fails to make me laugh.

However, it's probably best to go into this book with the mindset that it's NOT a spinoff to the hex hall series. There was no indication of what happened with Sophie, Jenna, Archer, etc. This was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the book. I was also hoping the subplot of Izzy's missing sister would play some important role. It didn't, but I expect it will as the series goes on. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


So I had the opportunity to be the designated blogger at the Fierce Reads tour stop in Memphis. I was so honored, and immediately accepted. Yesterday, I ended up driving over three hours to Memphis. I got there early, took a look around the store (which was huge!) and had a quick bite to eat. Then it was time for my meet-and-greet time/interview with the authors. I had 10 questions to ask them, and the girls made those 45 minutes feel like only 15. Seriously, all four authors on this tour are so amazing, funny, and awesome!

I was thinking about recording my interview with the authors, but that didn't work out because my phone charge was less than half. I ended up taking quick notes, writing down the author's response.

Question 1: Who is your current YA crush?
-A: Warner in Shatter Me/Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
-E: Tom in Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
-L: Tarver in These Broken Stars by Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
-J: Prince Maxon in the Selection/The Elite by Kiera Cass

Question 2: Favorite read of 2013 so far?
-A: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
-E: Dog Star (I think by Peter Heller).
-L: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
-J:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Question 3: Currently, who has been your favorite character to write (minor or major character).
-A: Toraf
-E: Max
-L: Sturmhond
-J: Mentioned this character is in the sequel to Unremebered, but she can't reveal who "it" is. Ended up saying that Cody was her favorite. 

Question 5: How do you balance reading and writing.
-Everyone pretty much said they didn't keep up with their reading. Writing takes up more time, and they can't read while writing.
-Jessica mentioned that Audible was a lifesaver, when it comes to keeping up with her TBR pile. 

Question 6: What is your writing routine/Where do you write?
-A: Can't write at home. Has to go out and write. Often makes rounds with the coffee shops, hoping she doesn't stay too long for employees to notice she's loitering and not buying anything.
-E: Emmy likes to write outside too, but when she's at home, she has an extensive prep process. She takes off her wedding ring, she has music/background voice, and lights candles. This was apparently a side to Emmy the other authors did not know about.
-L: Loves to go on "writing dates" outside her home. They provide "surveillance" to make sure they're not using the internet, being the distracting thing that it is.
-J: Writes at home and outside, but prefers outside. When at home, she has a "ravenclaw" flag outside her door as a "do not disturb" sign. She also drinks lots of coffee, only when writing, and has a white noise track she puts on repeat. 

Question: 7: Biggest misconception about being published.
-A: That you get rich.
-E: That you'll have it made after publishing your first book, and that self publishing is easier.
-L: That writing and publishing a book is a solitary thing. There are just so many people involved in getting a book published. Much more than people realize, at first.
-J: That Authors get control of their covers, and that publishing is a quick process (it's actually VERY slow). 

Question 7: What advice would you now give to your unpublished self?
E: Check your facts and set up your sequels better.
A: Make better villains. Anna mentioned how marketable good villains are, and that she feels her book misses out on that opportunity.
L: Kill doubt. That you are going to make it through.
J: Meet more authors (they are a great support group) 

Question 8: What would you do if you didn't write.
E: Voice over actor/Director or a dullah/midwife
L: Make up artist. Although Leigh says she would be very sad to go back to that job. Writing is her passion.
J: Blackjack/poker dealer. 

Question 9: What were the biggest obsticles while writing your first published book.
A: People kept telling her she'd never get published. That she couldn't do it.
E: She was too wrapped up in caring for her children. It took some time for her to realize she needed some form of creative outlet, and once she found it, things started to fall in place.
L: Struggled with starting and never finishing so many book ideas. Felt, when writing Shadow and BOne, that this would end up the same way: unfinished.
J: Writing a sellable book. Had queried, but took some time to establish a story and plot that would be engaging enough for readers. It took time to finally that write story. 

Question 10: So you've been on tour for about a week--any fun stories you'd like to share.
-When Anna Bankes received the phone call that she hit the NYT bestsellers list. She was on the phone, crying and everyone thought someone was hurt or dying. They were in Las Vegas, and it was the perfect place for the four authors to celebrate Anna Banks hitting the list.
-Apparently, Leigh loves bananas. Jessica Bosworth presented Leigh with messages on bananas last year, on tour. Someone, this time around, has been sneaking bananas with messages in her purse. She still doesn't know who is responsible. My guess? They are all in on the banana think, but Anna came up with the idea. 

So that's my exclusive interview with the authors. Then it was time to start the actual event. I took my front row seat, and listened as Justine Magazine moderated the panel. Each author introduced her book, and were then peppered with questions. Instead of giving every question and answer, I'm just going to highlight some of my favorite (and funniest answers).

One word to describe your book? Emmy said "torque", Jessica said "memorable", Anna said "romantic", and Leigh said "epic".

Emmy mentioned how she would like Josh Hutcherson to play Jake in her book.

Jessica Brody would like to have the superpower to be immune to calories (I would too!)

In an apocalyptic world, Anna said she would miss fried chicken. Leigh said she would miss Project Runway.

Leigh said, when asked what time period she would most like to visit, she said every place in history has an unappealing aspect. She'd like to go to the future instead.

Emmy's book, Monument 14, was originally titled We Are Value Marked. Leigh also went through some title angst. The book started off as The Darkling, then Grisha (but people kept thinking she was saying Grecian), until she settled on Shadow and Bone. Then Daughter of Smoke and Bone was coming out, as was The Book of Blood and Shadows. Leigh mentioned how they might have to end up doing a "Panel of Shadow, Bone, and Smoke". I think that would be awesome!

When asked about any "funny stories" surrounding their book, Jessica said Dr. Maxxer was actually a boy. Until the editors pointed out that all the research/medical specialist people were men. So she changed Dr. Maxxer into a boy, but not all the "changes" were fixed in the ARC of Unremembered.

The page count in Monument 14: Sky on Fire is actually 45 pages more than the original ARC. There were issues with having a larger page count, so they made the font smaller. Page count is the same, but there are definitely more words in the finished copy.

When asked if they outline, Anne compared outlining to wearing a bra in the shower. She feels so constricted. She rarely knows the ending of her book. She likes writing by the seat of her pants.

It was such an awesome panel! Thanks to Fierce Reads for stopping by, and thanks to the authors who made the trip totally worth it! As part of being the designated blogger, Macmillian has offered up a signed copy of each author's most recent title. Enter by using the raffelcopter below.

Some rules:
1. Must be 13 years or older.
2. You MUST be living in the US. Sorry international people.
3. You MUST respond to the winner notification email within 48 hours, or another winner will be selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now some fun pictures. Side note: the authors totally did these poses on their own. I just went along with them. These girls are just hilarious!

Acting like the Captain. Sort of.
There's an oncoming storm!!

Lastly, the Fierce Reads tour is still going on. Check out the Fierce Reads Facebook page to see their upcoming stops! You don't want to miss it if they're going to be at a city near you!

Saturday, June 8, 2013


This is a special blog post. It's not about a book, but rather, a blogger. A super awesome blogger who's birthday happens to be TODAY. Eileen, of Singing and Reading in the Rain, turns 14. It's an awesome milestone, and seriously, if you don't know this girl: WHAT ROCK HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING UNDER? Here just just 10 reasons why I love Eileen, and why she deserves to have the most awesomest, bombdigity birthday ever!

#1 I think the first thing I noticed about Eileen was her colorful layout. I remember last year, thinking: this girl is wild. And bubbly. In a good way, of course. The layout matched her personality, and I didn't hesitate to start following her blog.

#2 Then I discovered that Eileen is probably one of the youngest bloggers out there, and was doubly impressed. This girl is freakin' dedicated, and that's more than I can say for other girls her age.

#3 We have very similar tastes in books! Like anyone, we may have our differences, but I definitely trust her opinion and take it to heart.

#4 She's so much fun to talk to on Twitter! Seriously. Just tweet at her, and you'll see.

#5 She's SINGS.


#7 She loves spreading her love of books by sending out surprise packages (and she writes super awesome little notes to go with the package)!

#8 Eileen's not afraid to be honest about her opinion of a book, which is admirable in so many ways.

#9 Just an inside joke: FISHY SPERM

#10 I remember just how awesome it was to reach out and find a blogger friend. She was one of the first bloggers I REALLY chatted with. And she's been so supportive and entertaining. I can't tell you how many times that she's made me smile. So I guess that's my tenth reason why Eileen is so awesome: she makes me smile.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EILEEN! You go, girl! Keep on being awesome. ;) You deserve to have the BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.

THe next stop on the Eileen Birthday blog tour:

TeenBook Guru, Riya  :

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 
Release: June 4th
Source: ARC (provided by publisher for review) 

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm

Last year, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of Shadow and Bone. Everyone raved about it, prior to its release, and the premise? It was fan-freakin'-tastic. And when I finally read Shadow and Bone, it surpassed my expectations. It also made me that much more desperate for Siege and Storm. 

Now I'm here to tell you that I loved Siege and Storm, possibly more than the first book. 

Siege and Storm picks up with Mal and Alina in hiding. They've managed to escape the Darkling, and have been trying to adjust to their new life. The threat of the Darkling is still ever present, and Alina fears he's still out there, hunting for her.

Honestly, my mind exploded from all the twists and turns. So much happens in the first few chapters: we meet the Darkling again, they take to the sea, and we meet another character named Captain Sturmond. Oh, my. He's such a fantastic addition to the series--full of suave and an awesome sense of humor. 

Leigh Bardugo, why do you make me fall in love with all your characters? It's probably my favorite aspect of this trilogy: the characterization. In Shadow and Bone, Alina is such a timid girl, unsure of her blossoming powers. By the end of Siege and Storm, she's grown into someone so confident and strong. Then there's Mal. Dear Mal. One moment I'm hating you, and the next? I'm swooning. Mal and Alina's struggle is so palpable, and it pains me to see how certain things still manage to keep them distant. Lastly (but not least), there's the Darkling. For those who love the Darkling, it might be best to lower your expectations. The Darkling is still as awesome as ever, but he's largely absent from the middle of the book. When he does make an appearance, though, it's glorious. And fascinating.

Of course, I love the plot and I love the writing. Leigh just has a way with words, knowing just how much to describe and how much to leave to the imagination. The world of Ravka is so fascinating and unique, it almost makes me sad that I'll only get to the explore the world for one more book. A book that I am now even more desperate for. 

So Leigh, here's to you! And your books! I love them so, and if you haven't read the first book--WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It's out in paperback now.